Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas got here out quick to ask the primary questions of the brand new Supreme Court time period Monday, signaling that he’ll proceed to actively take part in oral arguments although the courtroom is returning to in-person hearings. 

“Counsel, you seem to complain about Tennessee pumping water from Mississippi, but you admit that Tennessee does not enter across the border into Mississippi, isn’t that correct?” Thomas requested a lawyer from Mississippi after he completed his opening assertion in a water dispute. 

The query and its timing had been notable as a result of the courtroom is adopting a brand new hybrid argument format. Before the pandemic,  justices interrupted counsel with a barrage of rapid-fire questions in no explicit order. Thomas made clear his distaste for that system and nearly by no means spoke. 

But when the courtroom was compelled to work remotely final yr it started asking questions in descending order of seniority, a system Thomas participated in the identical as all his fellow justices. 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas attends the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett to be the U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice on the South Lawn of the White House October 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Thomas asked the first question of the 2021-2022 Supreme Court term. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas attends the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett to be the U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice on the South Lawn of the White House October 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Thomas requested the primary query of the 2021-2022 Supreme Court time period. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

SUPREME COURT JUSTICES RETURN FOR IN-PERSON ORAL ARGUMENTS AS THEY FACE BUSY TERM OF MAJOR CASES

The new system begins with an prolonged interval of rapid-fire questioning adopted by a extra orderly alternative for particular person questioning by every justice on the finish. But Thomas did not await the structured time and as an alternative jumped proper into the questioning in a manner he nearly by no means did earlier than the pandemic. 

The first case of the Supreme Court time period on Monday is a dispute over floor water between Tennessee and Mississippi. Mississippi alleges that Tennessee is basically stealing floor water by pumping an excessive amount of from a shared aquifer. 

Thomas peppered the Mississippi lawyer with a number of extra powerful questions after his first one. 

“Let’s say it was a lake and Tennessee was pumping water on its side of the lake. Couldn’t you argue that technically it was drawing water from Mississippi,” underneath Mississippi’s logic, Thomas requested that state’s lawyer. “Couldn’t Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri make the same argument that whenever you pump you’re causing similar problems for them?”

Former Thomas clerk and Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino mentioned that Thomas’ assertive nature on this first argument of the courtroom’s 2021-2022 time period is reflective of the brand new 6-3 conservative majority. 

“It is Justice Thomas’s moment as the intellectual leader of the Court and thus fitting to hear him ask the first question of the new term,” Severino mentioned.